Plumbers Can Find Top Wages in Oregon

by Jason Payton

January 30, 2019

The effort to become a journey-level plumber is well rewarded in Oregon, as the average wage here is one of the highest in the nation for plumbers.

If you are considering a change in career paths, you may want to consider the plumbing trade. Journey-level plumbers complete home repairs, work on new commercial and residential construction, or work in manufacturing plants around the state.

Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey!

Plumbers assemble, install, alter, and repair pipelines or pipe systems that carry water, steam, air, or other liquids or gases. They may install heating and cooling equipment and mechanical control systems.

Working conditions can vary depending on the job and industry. Plumbers might use hand and power tools or welding or soldering equipment depending on what work is needed. Plumbers need a combination of strength and stamina as the work may require lifting heavy pipes, fitting into uncomfortable or sometimes cramped locations, and being able to stand for long periods of time. Plumbers can also be exposed to all kinds of weather, especially in Oregon, as their work may take them outdoors.

What Do Plumbers Earn?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Oregon plumbers had the fifth highest average wage for plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters in the nation in 2017. The Oregon Employment Department estimates half of all Oregon plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters earned more than $36.19 per hour in 2018.
Job Security Is as Close as the Nearest Leaky Faucet

Plumbers can be found working in a number of industries. In 2017, about 78 percent of Oregon plumbers were employed in the construction industry, with most employed by specialty trade contractors. Plumbers also work in utilities, manufacturing, and local government (excluding education and hospitals).

Plumbers are often their own boss. The rate of self-employment is much higher than the rate for other occupations. In 2016, the BLS estimates that nationwide about 12.6 percent of plumbers were self-employed.

According to the Oregon Employment Department there were 6,651 plumbers in Oregon in 2017. The downturn in construction beginning in 2008 was historic. Construction employment fell to levels we hadn’t seen since 2000. The construction industry reached and moved beyond its prior peak in 2018, and plumber employment has followed the economic trends upward.
The Oregon Employment Department estimates plumber employment will increase 12.4 percent from 2017 to 2027, about the average growth rate across occupations. It is projected that 83 annual openings in the occupation will become available due to growth. An additional 728 annual openings will be due to retirements, or plumbers leaving the trade.

How to Become a Plumber

Becoming a plumber typically involves getting a state plumber’s license by completing an apprenticeship. If someone wants to apply to an apprenticeship program, they must first meet the minimum qualifications. The state requires applicants to provide proof of high school graduation or GED equivalent, and the applicant must be 18 years of age or older. Local apprenticeship committees oversee the apprenticeship and may have additional minimum requirements. For instance, one of the apprenticeship committees on the northern coast of Oregon requires applicants to show proof that they received a passing grade or better in high school algebra, an Integrated Math 2 class, or receive equivalent math placement test results. More information about apprenticeships and local committee requirements can be found at the Bureau of Labor and Industries Apprenticeship Division website at www.oregon.gov/BOLI/ATD.

A plumber’s apprenticeship typically lasts four to five years. Apprentices start out earning 40 percent to 50 percent of what their journey-level counterparts make. Depending on progress in the program, wages can increase every six months. The apprenticeship includes between 7,700 and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. It also includes a minimum of 144 hours of related classroom instruction each year of the apprenticeship. Instruction topics include: service and repair, water system installation, blueprint and drawing training, and Oregon OSHA safety regulations for construction.

As long as factories need pipe systems installed and maintained, or homes need plumbing systems repaired and built, there will be a need for plumbers. With high wages and many job openings expected to replace retiring workers, this field is a good bet for workers looking to develop their career in a hands-on, high-skill job.


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